how to throat sing

How to Throat Sing: 5 Easy Steps for Tuvan Throat Singing

If you’re an experienced or aspiring singer looking for a way to expand your vocal range and agility, then learning how to throat sing is a great place to start.

Throat singing, also known as overtone singing or harmonic singing, is an ancient art form traditionally used by indigenous cultures for storytelling and spiritual purposes. This mesmerizing form of singing produces more than one pitch simultaneously, creating harmonic overtones that seem almost otherworldly! – It’s amazing what the human voice can achieve.

While it may appear mystical and challenging, throat singing is a helpful vocal skill that can be learned with patience and practice. In this guide, we will explore the art of throat singing, its cultural significance, and step-by-step instructions to help you get started on your throat singing journey, and by the end, you’ll be able to produce clear and beautiful harmonies!

What is Throat Singing?

Throat singing is an ancient form of vocal practice that is still practised today by many cultures around the world. It involves producing multiple notes simultaneously (often two or three notes at once) and thus creating harmonic overtones. This produces a deep, resonant sound that can be both relaxing and mesmerizing.

Think of it this way, if you can hum a single note like “Ahh,” throat singing is like humming two or three notes at the same time, like “Ahhh-oooh-eee.”

Check out this video below to understand what the Tuvan throat singing technique looks like:

But where did throat singing originate from? Let’s talk a bit about the history and why it’s important.

Understanding the Science Behind Throat Overtone Singing

Harmonic Overtone Series

At the core of throat singing lies the physics of sound. When a singer throat sings, the vocal cords create a fundamental pitch, and the shape of the singer’s mouth and throat act as a resonating chamber. This produces a series of harmonics above the fundamental frequency, forming the overtone series.

Techniques for Producing Harmonics

Various techniques are employed by several musical groups from ancient cultures to manipulate the vocal tract and produce different harmonics:

  1. Khoomei (Tuvan Throat Singing): Khoomei involves isolating and amplifying the high overtones, creating a haunting, flute-like sound.
  2. Kargyraa (Tuvan Throat Singing): Kargyraa focuses on the lower harmonics, producing a deep, growling sound coming from the throat – similar to the rumble of a didgeridoo.
  3. Sygyt (Tuvan Throat Singing): Sygyt emphasizes the middle harmonics, resulting in a high-pitched, whistle-like tone.
  4. Khoomii (Mongolian Throat Singing): Similar to Tuvan Khoomei, Mongolian Khoomii encompasses multiple styles, each with a distinct harmonic emphasis.
  5. Katajjaq (Inuit Throat Singing): Katajjaq is a playful form of throat singing performed in pairs, with one singer leading and the other following closely. This style uses sharp inhalations and exhalations instead of long, sustained notes.

The Origins and Cultural Significance of Throat Singing

Free Three Men in Traditional Native American Clothes Playing on Side of Road Stock Photo

Throat singing can be traced back to different regions across the globe, with diverse cultural heritages, each with its unique styles and techniques. Notable examples include:

Tuvan Throat Singing (Mongolian Throat Singing)

Originating from the Republic of Tuva in Russia, a remote and picturesque region nestled in the heart of Central Asia, close to the borders of Mongolia and tucked between the majestic Altai and the Sayan Mountains, with Mongolia to its south. Tuvan throat singing includes styles like Khoomei, Kargyraa, and Sygyt.

The Tuva region is rich in biodiversity and boasts a stunning array of landscapes, from wide-open steppes to dense forests and pristine alpine meadows. Known for its isolation, Tuva is often referred to as “the land of the nomads,” a testament to its rich nomadic heritage.

The Tuvan people, who live in the Altay Mountains of Central Asia, are perhaps best known for their throat singing technique called kargyraa. This style of throat singing is one of their ancient forms of cultural expression and storytelling. The Tuvan throat singers use a combination of low-pitched and high-pitched notes to create overtones and harmonics.

Mongolian Throat Singing (Khöömei)

Mongolian throat singing is another style of overtone singing practised by nomadic people in the steppes of Mongolia. It’s also known as Khöömei, which means ‘throat harmony’ in the Mongolian language. This type of throat singing involves producing two notes simultaneously with a growling vocal technique known as kargyraa.

These people had throat singing embedded in their culture for centuries, as it was used to accompany nomadic horseback riding, long-distance travel and storytelling. This art form even became a key part of their national identity, with the Mongolian throat singing competition held annually in Ulaanbaatar since 1978.

Inuit Throat Singing (Katajjaq)

Inuit throat singing, also known as katajjaq, is an ancient form of vocal expression traditionally practiced by the Inuit indigenous people of north Canada. Often times, in Inuit cultures, two participants stand facing each other and sing in a call-and-response style. The singers take turns making spontaneous animal sounds, such as seals barking or birds calling, while the other singer attempts to imitate and match the sound.

Katajjaq is not only a form of entertainment for the Inuit people; it’s also used as a social bonding tool among Inuit women. The Inuit women’s style differs from the Tuvan and Mongolian throat singing styles, as katajjaq doesn’t involve resonating harmonics. Instead, it’s a playful vocal game in which two women sing together and take turns leading and following each other. The aim is for both participants to keep in time with each other and create harmonious sounds – a feat that requires skill, practice, and cooperation.

Xhosa Throat Singing (Igqirha)

Originating from South Africa, Xhosa throat singing is a traditional vocal practice known as igqirha. It’s usually practised by two people standing opposite each other in a circle of friends or relatives. The singers improvise alternating melodies that intertwine with each other and form a complex harmony.

The Xhosa people believe that Igqirha has spiritual significance and thus is often used in rituals to summon ancestral spirits. It’s also employed as a means of communication, with singers using igqirha as a way to express their emotions.

Tibetan Throat Singing (Tsona)

Tibetan throat singing is a centuries-old tradition of vocal practice known as tsona. It’s used to produce two notes at the same time using a ‘sawing’ motion, then modulating the sound with vibrato. This style of throat singing has roots in animism and shamanic rituals,

Found in the Himalayan regions, Tibetan throat singing plays a significant role in Tibetan Buddhist rituals.

Cultural Significance

For many of these cultures, throat singing is more than just a musical technique to create melody; it holds deep cultural and spiritual significance. It is believed to connect singers with nature, ancestors, and the divine. Throat singing is often used in rituals, ceremonies, and storytelling, preserving ancient traditions and folklore.

Now that you know about the history and cultural significance of throat singing, it’s time to learn how to do it yourself!

Learning How to Throat Sing: Step-by-Step Instructions

person with mouth slightly open

Practicing throat singing requires patience and determination. Here are the steps you should follow:

Step 1: Warm Up to Relax Your Jaw

Before you start throat singing, it’s important to warm up your vocal cords and get them ready for the activity. This will help prevent any strain or injury to your vocal cords. Some effective warm-up exercises include:

  • Make an “O” shape with your mouth slightly and hum.
  • Sing scales up and down in various pitches.
  • Make a buzzing sound with your lips, like that of a bee.
  • Repeat vowel sounds like “ah”, “oh” or “ee”.

Step 2: Switch Between the R and L Sounds

The objective is to control the overtone by changing the shape of your mouth and the position of your tongue. Start by saying ‘R’ and ‘L’ alternatively. When you say ‘R,’ the tip of your tongue should be slightly curled back in your mouth. When you say ‘L,’ the tip of your tongue should touch the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth – but the trick here is to make sure t doesn’t touch the roof of your mouth.

Practise switching between these two sounds, noticing the different positions of your tongue. This exercise will help you get the hang of manipulating your tongue position, which is essential for throat singing.

Step 3: Sing a Low Note

lady singing

At this point, you should be familiar with switching between ‘R’ and ‘L’ sounds. Now, it’s time to try singing a low note – start by humming a low pitch. Start off slow and increase the speed gradually. Controlled breathing is a key factor in throat singing, so ensure that you are breathing from your diaphragm.

RELATED POST: How To Sing From Your Diaphragm The RIGHT Way: 5 Easy Tips

Take your time and focus on producing a clean, consistent sound without straining your voice or vocal cords. You may also want to experiment with different pitches and see which one resonates with your voice.

Step 4: Change the Shape of Your Tongue

Once you’ve mastered the low note, it’s time to experiment with overtones. Start by singing a single sustained note but change the shape of your mouth and tongue as if you were switching between ‘R’ and ‘L.’ This will produce a texture of two notes – the sustained low note and a higher one produced by manipulating your tongue.

Step 5: Change Your Lips’ Shape

To further manipulate the overtones, move your lips slowly while singing. This will add undertones to the sound and help create a fuller, richer harmony of two notes.

You can narrow the diameter of your lips to create a whistling sound, but ultimately, keep experimenting with different techniques and find the ones that work best for you. With practice, you’ll be able to master the art of throat singing.

Practicing and Refining Your Skills

man recording his voice on his phone

To be a successful throat singer, you need to practice throat singing regularly. Set aside regular practice sessions, starting with short intervals and gradually increasing the duration. Record your sessions and listen for improvements or areas that need refinement.

Does Throat Singing Limit Vocal Range?

Having a throat singing skill can help you improve your vocal range without compromising it. It incorporates two techniques: combining formant tuning and modulating the sound using false chords that create the overtones.

Formants increase overtones, making them more precise and more visible when used individually or on multiple pitches. It is achieved by manipulating the vocal canal shape and does no harm to vocal folds. Singing requires manipulating formative frequency.

The same thing creates the vowel and a couple of consonants while singing. Formal tuning is also an unusual characteristic in Tuvan throat singing. This applies only to specific circumstances.

Can you teach yourself to throat sing?

The short answer is “Yes”. You don’t need a vocal coach or music teacher to learn throat singing. Although the process does require patience and practice, with some dedication, anyone can learn the basics of traditional throat singing from home.

Does throat singing hurt your throat?

Yes, throat singing can be hard on the vocal cords and may cause injury if done incorrectly. To avoid this, it is important to warm up your vocal cords before beginning any throat singing practice. Also, make sure to take breaks in between practice sessions and stay hydrated throughout the process.

Furthermore, never push yourself too far – if you feel like you’re straining your voice.


If you want to improve your vocal agility and flexibility, learning how to throat sing is very important. As you embark on your throat-singing journey, remember that patience and persistence are key.

So, take a deep breath, find your resonance, and let your voice resonate with the centuries of tradition and spirituality woven into the fabric of throat singing.


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